Published On Sat Jun 26 2010
Brendan Kennedy Staff Reporter
Family and friends of Emomotimi Azorbo, a deaf protestor who was arrested Friday, waited at the west-end courthouse where all G20 bail hearings take place this morning in the rain.
Azorbo, 30, was arrested at the intersection of College and Yonge after when he did not heed police commands to stay off the road, his friends say.
“I was asking them (police officers) to talk to me so I could talk to him,” said Azorbo’s friend, Saron Gebresellasi, who was with Azorbo when he was arrested.
“They were all yelling at him and he didn’t understand.”
Gebresellasi said they were about to cross Yonge street to get water from a convenience store when police officers started yelling at Azorbo as soon as
he stepped off the sidewalk.
Gebresellasi said police refused her request that she use sign language for Azorbo. Azorbo was handcuffed by police and shuttled into the Winners store
area, Gebresellasi said, saying the situation deteriorated from there.
“He couldn’t sign to me, because his hands were cuffed behind his back. I could see the anxiety it was causing him. He tried to spell letters with one hand and I could barely make out that he was asking me to stay, to not leave him.”
Gebresellasi said she asked police to let her stay with Azorbo until another interpreter arrived, but they refused. Friends believe he spent the night in
the Eastern Ave. detention centre set up for G20 arrests.
“I know it would have been a traumatizing experience for him, because he wouldn’t be able to communicate or understand anything,” Gebresellasi said.
Azorbo’s mother, Sophie, started crying when Gebresellasi recounted her son’s attempt to communicate while handcuffed. She said he works in the kitchen of a North York restaurant.
Jeff Pansuik, a deaf advocate who was also at the courthouse for Azorbo’s hearing, said the situation is not unique and police need to develop better protocols when arresting deaf people. “It’s not new; deaf people are denied interpreters all the time.”
Pansuik said deaf people should be handcuffed in the front, which would allow them to sign better.
“Handcuffing a deaf person is like putting duct tape over a hearing person’s mouth,” he said. “It’s a violation of their human rights.”
See also, “Deaf Man Arrested In G20 Protest Gets Bail”